The NSW Government has teamed with the Police Force, the Australian Hotels Association and the City of Sydney to launch the internationally recognised “Ask for Angela” safety campaign within the Sydney CBD.
Under the program, which originated two years ago in Lincolnshire, England, when a patron “Asks for Angela” at a participating venue, the code-word triggers a response from trained staff who will discreetly escort that person to safety or contact authorities for further assistance.
The concept is already being successfully trialled by Police, the AHA and Liquor Accords in Wagga, Albury, Orange and most recently Byron Bay.
The Sydney CBD trial formally begins on Saturday 14 July and Minister for Police, Troy Grant, has recognised its value in preventing sexual assaults in the city.
“I have seen the success the “Ask for Angela” trial has had in other areas of the state and overseas and I support its introduction to the Sydney CBD,” Mr Grant said.
“Given the increasing popularity of online dating apps, many people are meeting for dates at bars, clubs and pubs having never met, beyond the screens of their phone or computer,” the minister added.
“We don’t want people feeling intimidated when they’re socialising in the city, they’re out to enjoy themselves, not feel threatened, and this initiative supports their safety,” he added.
Minister for Racing, Paul Toole, said “Ask for Angela” was a great example of the valuable work Liquor Accords are doing to target alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour.
“The Liquor Accords play a key role in the government’s approach to alcohol regulation,” Mr Toole said.
“They represent a true collaboration between licensed venues, police, Liquor & Gaming NSW and local communities.”
Central Metropolitan Region Police Commander, Mark Walton APM, said Licensing officers are already training venue staff.
“We have been working with our Liquor Accord partners, the Australian Hotels Association, the City of Sydney and others to ensure staff can respond to the code-word concept.
“It could be someone on a social media-arranged first date or perhaps a couple has met at one of the 13-hundred or so licensed venues in the Sydney CBD,” Assistant Commissioner Walton said.
“If one of the parties feels uncomfortable or that encounter starts to take on a darker tone, then that person can approach staff and “Ask for Angela,” he explained.
“Staff would then seek to discreetly escort that person to safety.
“It’s important to stress that if a person requires urgent Police assistance they should immediately call triple-zero (000),” Assistant Commissioner Walton added.
“We are determined to prevent sexual assaults and if this campaign allows us to remove people from harm’s way, then it’s well worth it,” he said.
“We will wait and see how effective it is in the city before we consider its use more broadly.”
AHA NSW Director of Liquor and Policing, John Green, said many licensed premises in the Sydney CBD have signed up to the program.
“We have been busy educating venue staff about how to enact the concept and how to facilitate the safety measures within their own environments,” Mr Green said.
“This is not about venue staff replacing the role of police or putting themselves at risk,” he said.
“This is about reinforcing the need to be aware of patron behaviour and to provide options when a date or social encounter doesn’t go as planned.
“Participating venues have been quite enthusiastic about introducing “Ask for Angela” to the city of Sydney and we’re rolling out a fair bit of messaging about the initiative,” Mr Green added.
Sydney’s Deputy Lord Mayor, Jess Miller, said, “Everyone has a right to feel safe in the City, at all times.”
“Ask for Angela sends a message that creepy behaviour will not be tolerated and that nobody has the right to make anyone else feel threatened in any way,” Councillor Miller said.
“I, like many people, have zero tolerance for bad behaviour and this is a step toward ensuring that being made to feel threatened, or intimidated is not something anyone should have to put up with.”
In addition to training licensees and their staff, Police and their partners have produced a demonstration video, posters and other materials to highlight how the initiative works.